What are my rights in divorce is a question I heard recently from a client. This is a difficult question to answer because divorce law spans a wide range of topics and issues.
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS IN DIVORCE – WHICH TOPIC?
Our Judges are taught to address divorce cases by following an acronym. The acronym is P.E.A.C.E. and is broken out as follows:
P = Parenting E = Equitable Distribution A = Alimony C = Child Support E = Everything Else
So, answering the question “what are my rights in divorce” will depend upon which topic or issue you want to focus on.
For example, if you ask “what are my rights in divorce regarding parenting,” the answer becomes much easier to identify.
PARENTING & CONTACT WITH YOUR CHILD
According to our Florida Statutes or laws on parenting, you have at least a few rights here. One right is to “frequent and continuing contact” with your minor child. This means that you have the right to see your child frequently and ongoing into the future. You also have the right to frequent and ongoing communication with your child.
This also means that the other parent cannot refuse to let you communicate with or see your child. Of course, with most things, there are exceptions. If one of you can prove that the other parent is a danger to your child or that visitation with your child would cause the child harm, then the other parent’s physical time with your child may need to be supervised.
However, our Courts will still find a way for the other parent to have frequent and continuous contact. While it may be supervised, the other parent can still have frequent and continuous contact.
Our Courts have not gone so far as to determine how much time equals frequent. Some Judges seem to almost always award a Father every other weekend plus one night during the week visitation. Is this frequent? Maybe…maybe not.
PARENTING & MAKING DECISIONS FOR YOUR CHILD
As a parent with legal rights to your child, you also have a right to “share in the rights and responsibilities, and joys, of childrearing.”
This statutory language or language of our laws is one of the reasons the default custody or parenting arrangement in Florida is Shared Parental Responsibility. This means that you and the other parent will communicate and coordinate in making major decisions for your child. For example, decisions related to health and education.
Florida law clearly states that Shared Parental Responsibility shall be the default parenting arrangement unless Shared Parental Responsibility would result in harm to the child.
Some of my clients are determined to try to get sole custody or Sole Parenting Responsibility. Yet, most of them don’t have enough facts, proof, or evidence that sharing parental responsibility for their child would be detrimental or harmful to their child.
PARENTING & ACCESS TO INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR CHILD
Having access to your child’s records and information, including, and not limited to medical, dental, and school records, is an important parental right.
The other parent cannot legally prevent you from getting information about your child when it comes to things like medical, dental, and school records.
In addition, you have the right to in-person communication with medical, dental, and education providers. So, the other parent cannot prohibit you from attending things like school functions or parent-teacher conferences.
PARENTING & HIV
You also have the right to not be denied shared custody and visitation solely because you are or are believed to be infected with HIV. This is important since HIV statistics show there are approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV today.
EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OR SPLITTING UP YOUR STUFF
When it comes to your assets and debts, or things you own and money you owe, you have the right to a fair and equitable division of marital property. Our Courts are directed by our equitable distribution laws to start with the premise or thought that the distribution or division should be equal.
Moreover, you have the right to the full and fair disclosure of your family finances, which includes your assets and debts. How can a Court ensure that distribution of your assets and debts is equal if it does not know the full extent of what you own and what you owe? It cannot.
Therefore, you and your spouse are required to fully disclose your financial circumstances.
ALIMONY OR SPOUSAL SUPPORT
You have the right to be financially supported by your spouse if you are unable to be self-supporting after divorce. Florida alimony law provides four types of Alimony to help.
Your inability to become self-supporting might be temporary. Bridge-The-Gap alimony is designed to assist you by providing support to allow you to make the transition from being married to being single again. It only lasts for up to two years.
You might not be able to be self-supporting because you need to redevelop some previous skills or credentials. Or maybe you need education, training, or work experience to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials. Rehabilitative Alimony might be a good solution for you.
Or maybe you need financial support for a longer period of time to help you get back on your feet. But, you don’t need it for the rest of your life. Durational Alimony might be a good solution for you. However, you cannot receive durational alimony for a period of time longer than the length of your marriage. So, if you were married for 10 years, you cannot received durational alimony for longer than 10 years.
Finally, you might lack the financial ability to meet your needs and necessities of life, as they were established during your marriage, after your divorce. Permanent Alimony might be the best solution for you.
Whatever alimony solution is agreed to or ordered by the Court, you have the right to financial support from your spouse if you need it and they have the ability to provide it to you.
Your child has the right to be financially supported by both parents.
Florida child support law is based upon net income. In other words, the child support amount is based upon your combined net incomes; your net income combined with your spouse’s net income.
There is a complex formula used to calculate child support in Florida. And, our Courts have the ability to adjust the total minimum child support based upon a long list of factors.
WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS IN DIVORCE – CONCLUSION
So, you can see that answering the question what are my rights in divorce is not as easy to answer as you might think. You have a lot of rights in a divorce and probably more than you think you do.
Be well, stay safe, and have an AMAZING day!